Money Monday: Pro Tips for Tax Filers

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According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 50% of Americans file their tax returns before April 1st of each year. This means that I am speaking to the rest of you who either do not file, file late, or by a miracle file before the deadline. The fact that there is a tax deadline does not seem to make a difference anyway, because people will still be late! For example in the year 2020 during the Covid – 19 Pandemic, the incomparable IRS did the unthinkable, and moved the deadline from April 15, to July 15, 2020. Procrastinators were afforded an additional three months, yet an estimated 25% of filers were late. Therefore, with five weeks to go before the deadline let’s try to ease into taxes and filing in 2024.

In the Beginning

By now you should have received if not all but most of your required documents for filing your 2023 tax returns. Whatever you are missing, check with your employer, mortgage company, investment company, contractors and others to see what’s missing or inaccurate. Just because you have received the information, does not mean that it is accurate.

Just a few weeks ago, I had someone call my office and wanted help correcting the IRS Form 1099 they received for providing services. A Form 1099 is provided to independent contractors for services performed. Some of you may also be receiving statements from Paypal, Zelle or Cash App for money received.

If you did not receive a missing W-2, or 1099 it does not mean you should not include such income on your tax return. Just recently I was working with a client who failed to disclose or report income earned which should have been reported. The IRS had opened up an under-reporting audit for two years because this client failed to report or disclose W-2’s and 1099’s amounts received.

Pro or No?

Once you have a good handle on your tax affairs, then consider whether or not you need to hire a professional, or you could do it yourself.  If you need to hire a professional tax preparer consider your due diligence.

Your tax preparer should be licensed and credentialed. Most preparers fall into three categories. You have the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), the Enrolled Agent, and the Tax Attorney. Both CPA and attorney are licensed and regulated by their respective state boards or bar associations. An enrolled agent must comply with the IRS regulations and rules and successfully take several tests, and participate in continuing education classes from the IRS. You can find a list of enrolled agents in your area by going to www.naea.org.

There’s one group also recognized by the IRS, and these tax preparers are on the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with credentials and select qualifications. Tax preparers have completed the IRS tax program but are not Attorney’s CPA’s or Enrolled Agents.

Another due diligence process you may want to execute is to cheek with the Better Business Bureau to learn of any complaints and other reports made against the tax professional you wish to hire. You can also obtain some of this information from your local CPA society or State Bar. To verify that a tax preparer is an Enrolled Agent you can go to www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/verify-the-status-of-an-enrolled-agent. Finally be sure that the professional can provide an estimate cost for services before you begin.

No Pro

If we assume you are going to file your own taxes because it is relatively simple, there are some options available and several questions you will need to work through to land on the best or right software for you.

One option is to use file using IRS Direct. This is a pilot program by the IRS and is available in some states. This option allows you to file directly with the IRS. However, you will have to meet certain conditions to qualify. The requirements are you must only have W-2 income, Social Security or retirement income, unemployment earnings, use the standard deduction and not have interest income of more than $1,500. It’s free and a decent option if you qualify .

Another option is the IRS partnership with Free Filer Alliance, a non-profit organization. This option is available to most people whose Adjusted Gross Income is $79,000 or less. Your adjusted gross income is your gross income, less certain deductions, such as pretax contributions and student loans, to cite some examples.

Finally, when it comes to the best software, it really depends on several factors including your tax IQ and familiarity with program technology. If your tax IQ is low, then you need software that will provide many prompts and ask many questions to guide and teach you along the way. Then there are private companies such as H&R Block, Inc. that can offer a hybrid option with both you and the tax professional preparing your tax return.

Take Away

When considering preparing your taxes for 2023, know there is an accountant shortage in America. According to the accountants governing body, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) there has been a steady decline of people graduating with accounting degrees since 2015. Not only is there a shortage, but their cost have increased by 8.3% since filing the 2022 filing season. If you are an entrepreneur or business person, have several investments in real estate, or have stocks and bonds transactions, it may be worth considering hiring a professional.

THAT’S WHAT’S UP!

Today’s What’s Up is about reducing your taxes or increasing your refund but making contributions to your Health Savings Account (HSA). Typically, you have until April 14, 2024 to make a contribution to your 2023 HSA and deduct it on your 2023 tax return. This kind of contribution can reduce your Adjusted Gross Income and help you qualify for more tax credits and benefits. And that’s what’s up!
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Ruthven R. Phillip, Esq., is a tax attorney, Stewardship and Philanthropy Ministry Assistant, and CEO of Give2Getrich, LLC. Give2Get Rich, LLC 2024. All Rights Reserved. Any distribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited.

 

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